a seeded battle.

I'm generally not one to go head first into the flavor of the week when it comes to the latest fads and trends. I refuse to wear leggings under everything I own, I try to find sunglasses that aren't twelve sizes too large for my face, and I skipped the two years when every woman in the world colored the underside of her hair black and the top platinum blonde. I just don't get it, why would you want to look like Cruella DeVille? But at any rate, the organic revolution continues to tug at my heart, and even moreso at my wallet. I'm quite fond of the idea of chemical-free, friendly farming, but it seems one would have to have a bottomless pit for a bank account to be able to fund such a lifestyle.

I used to live in what I bitterly refer to as " the big city" and despite the overpriced rent, endless traffic jams and low-paying job, I was grateful for one thing: Whole Foods. Granted, that's assuming I can even get there, a store 2 miles away can take 45 minutes to get to when you live in the big city, but I was able to soothe my frazzled nerves by spending hours pinching organic peaches and wondering what an all natural whole wheat cereal sweetened with agave nectar tastes like (probably pretty nasty now that I think about it). Meandering by the bicycle sized cheese wheels and sockeye salmon fillets, I'd imagine writing a childrens book to the effect of Brittany Goes to the Big City or Brittany Bakes an Almond Tarte. But sadly, a trip to Whole Foods was always disappointing in the end, I'd go home with two or three must-haves only to find they weren't nearly as good as I'd hoped and I spent entirely too much money in the process.

So I'd nearly thrown in the towel on all things organic, writing it off as a government scam and vowing to just deal with the hormone-filled milk because hey, I turned out okay and I grew up drinking the stuff. But then came an offer I could not refuse, a teacher who works with my mother and just so happens to be an incredible farmer was selling organic, 100% pesticide and chemical free, hand-picked black raspberries. I'd barely gotten my eyes rolled halfway back into my head, waiting to hear the outrageous price, but it never came. A measly four dollars a quart for the most delicious, plump, unbrusied, don't-even-need-to-wash-'em black raspberries. They're picked by Mr. McClanathan himself (a man I already like even though we've never met. He doesn't use computers, doesn't own a cell phone, teaches earth science and is apparently an avid caver. And any man who grows raspberries like these is okay in my book) just hours before I picked them up. Mom bought eight quarts.

Now then, I'm not one to argue with a man who cranks out flawless berries in addition to potatoes, tomatoes and a plethora of other earthly good eats, so when he passed along the word that these berries are best for jam making, I had to comply. I know, I just made jam a few weeks ago. But when it's that yummy, you don't count how many days it's been since your last batch. Plus, as fate would have it, my favorite co-jam maker happened to spend the night at our house the night before the jam making festivities. But I wasn't about to end up short this time, and even with eight quarts, I didn't doubt this child was more than capable of relieving me of at least two of them. So I set him up with his own bowl of raspberries, set off to start squashing mine, only to return 15 minutes later to find his hands and cheeks black with juice. He looked like a teeny tiny madman, his hands stained with evidence of a massive berry destruction.

I must warn you, dear reader, that making black raspberry jam was a much less glamorous process than I'd hoped. In attempts to get the jam to the required full rolling boil, my stove top turned into a seeded battle, a bloody massacre of berries. It spit dark purple juice and seeds into the most impossible places, and now, days later, I'm still finding speckles of bluish juice on the underside of the microwave and cabinets. My hands looked frightful, like I'd just gone all Nightmare on Elm Street on some more unsuspecting person and didn't bother to rinse away the crime. Finally, after much perseverance and determination that this would surely be the best jam ever, I spooned the evidence into mason jars and stepped back, examining the scene. What a delicious disaster I've created, sheesh.

Seedy Black Raspberry Jam

5 cups crushed black raspberries
4 cups white sugar
1 box Sure Jell Reduced Sugar pectin

Crush berries with a potato smasher until you have a good mix of chunky pieces and juice. Mix 1/4 cup of the sugar and the box of pectin into the berries and bring to a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop even when you stir). Mix in the remaining amount of sugar and boil for one full minutes, then remove from the heat.

Spoon quickly into hot, clean mason jars and seal immediately. To process, boil in a water bath for 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

But I assure you, these berries were something special. And cheers to you, Mr. McClanathan, for taking such pride in what you grow so that I can spend half the morning flossing the seeds out of my teeth and savoring the flavor that it was totally worth it. So perhaps I'm not reaching for that agave-nectar cereal just yet, but if this sort of thing continues, I think I've got real potential to jump on the organic train.

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